Photoshopping Tilt Shift - Miniature Fakes


Active Member
Sep 22, 2007
Melbourne, Australia
You can also find this guide on
I wrote it on there, then thought some people here might like it.

Edit 21st June: I've also created a video tutorial which i hope is a bit nicer to follow :)

Here goes then...


Tilt Shift Photography and the incredible miniature worlds it produces are the latest 'big thing' in the photo world. It may only be in my eyes, but it's popping up all over the place and showing some truly spectacular and eye catching results. However, Tilt Shift Photography is very difficult to create in camera. It involves a special lens and of course a lot of money to buy it. Here then is a guide to all you Photoshop owners so that you can create the incredible effect on your own photos with a few simple steps.


Step 1: Choosing the right photo
This is a very important part of the overall process. Some photos simply don't work with the applied effect. To create the best Tilt Shift photo possible you need to remember that miniature models are viewed from above. Thus you need a photo overlooking something from a reasonably high angle. It doesn't need to be hundreds of meters up viewing a whole city though. Even a single street could work nicely. Just make sure you're high up and everything should function smoothly.

This is the picture I'll be using. Left to it's own devices it's really nothing special. The high angle and the cars buzzing around though make it the perfect photo to Tilt-Shiftize.



Step 2: Quick-Mask It.
This is a fairly simple part. Just click the little icon and you'll be in Quick Mask Mode.



Step 3: Choose your Gradient.
For this you'll need to use the reflected gradient (the 4th gradient icon from the left). This will create your depth of field effect so that there is one main focal point and everything else in the foreground or background is blurred.



Step 4: Draw a Line.
Start your line from your main point of focus (that being the object you want most to look like a toy) and then draw down. The start point will be the object in view and the end point will be where the transition from clear to blurry is complete. You'll need to experiment with the length of the gradient because this is the make or break aspect of your final image. In my image my central point of focus was the car. I drew the gradient roughly to the bottom of the image because this created the best effect in my opinion.



Step 5: It's all gone red!
You're in the right direction. This red section just shows you the gradient you drew before and won't appear on the final image. If you don't like the length or think it could be better, just draw your line again.



Step 6: Exit Quick Mask Mode.
This is pretty simple. Just click the Quick Mask button again to exit the mode (or Q if you like using shortcuts). Your image should now change from being red to having the top and bottom section surrounded by 'marching ants'. The main point of focus shouldn't be selected.



Step 7: Open Lens Blur.
You'll find it in Filters - Blur. Selecting this will bring up the interface where you can create your blur and thus your tilt shift.



Step 8: Fiddle.
Now your Tilt Shift will start taking shape. Fiddling is all you can really do here. There's no right or wrong answer because it all depends on your specific image. To change the intensity of the lens blur you'll need to play with the 'radius' bar. In my case I've gone for 25. This level of blur I felt pulled of the tilt shift effect nicely and still looked rather natural. Too much and the background would be too blurred and have no real place in the image. Push 'ok' when you're happy with your lens blur.



Step 9: Get rid of the Marching Ants.
To do this simply push Control+D, or for mac users push Command+D. If you don't do this then any further edits will only occur in the selected region.



Step 10: Open the Hue/Saturation option.
Selecting Hue/Saturation will open up a small menu that gives you quick and easy control over the colours of your image.



Step 11: Increase your Saturation.
A toy world always has much simpler, brighter and more vibrant colours. Increasing the saturation will change the colours to make the objects look more like plastic. Don't do it too much though or it will just look too fake. The level once again is up to you and unique to your photo.



Step 12: Tweak your Image.
This is pretty much the final step. All thats left to do is whatever you think can make the image look better. Advanced photoshop users might like to adjust the levels (control/command+L). Making the dark points darker can have quite a nice effect.
In my case, I fiddled with the levels and also cropped the photo to get rid of part of the sky. I felt there was too much sky which tampered with the illusion of this being a toy world.


Here's what I ended up with...


Tilt Shift Town. By Ash Davies

I'm very happy with how mine turned out.
I'd love to see your miniature fakes, so post them below
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Very well done tutorial! Good stuff.
Hahahahaha! Great!
Elvis313 that looks really good

I've done another one, this time from a low angle
and it actually turned out alright. It's like a little lego snow plow

I've been wondering how to do this :)

One of the few photos I have that I thought would work and I think it did.

Alok, this one is great! :lol:
Elvis, the one of the wiesmann factory is great :) Just like a little toy car shop.
Likewise with Auto and Alok. They're all just like model cars.

If we get a few more great ones i might post them on my site. I'll aim for around 10, so keep them coming.
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These are great, :thumbsup: everyone.

I think I might try this after next weekend, don't really have any pics for it right now.
I must say this stuff looks epic! :woot:

Good work! :)
That's too easy and often doesn't look just right. You have to work a lot more on the actual mask to get all the different planes out of focus properly. Once you do that, you can also tilt and shift the focal plane in different directions, if you have the mental capacity to picture the outlook of the image before it's done. We've had several lessons on tilt shift with a proper studio camera and it still boggles my mind.

Here's a more advanced tutorial.
^ IMO the image they used didn't work too well. But the one of the bridge that the guy linked to looked great.
True, the angle's not high enough, I just linked to that for the technique. You can't just slap on a gradient and expect it to be correct.
It is a nice starting tutorial. No need to over criticize this. If the picture is nice (for example buildings in the background are very far away) making a t&s photo with this tutorial is more than enough... You wont notice the difference in the buildings anyway.
Doesn't just using a gradient get you a result closer to actual tilt-shifting? Doing up a proper mask will make it look more like a miniature for sure though.
My first try at this, be gentle :p
Double post ftw :p

Made 2 more :D
I thought I'd give this a go. :)